Italy is a very small country where regional and super local cuisine are a way of life and not an applied culinary concept. As you travel through the peninsula you can notice changes in ingredients and recipes that are not sudden but rather blend together in a magnificent way. Some dishes have remained local since they hit the kitchen table for the very first time, others traveled and found love almost wherever they went, becoming ambassadors of their land of origin.
“Pesto alla Genovese”, “Bistecca alla Fiorentina”, “Bucatini all’Amatriciana” are now recipes cooked all over the world: not only they are delicious but they also tell the story of the land where they come from, they hold their flag up high and proudly feed us while helping us romanticize about Italy and its bounty of ingredients and simple preparations.
“Cacio e Pepe” has found its glory in a more recent history; when I grew up in Florence “Pesto” (recipe from Genova, north of Florence) was already an ubiquitous condiment for pasta, and some “alimentari” even sold a freshly made sauce my mother could use at home. But “Cacio e Pepe” (from Rome, south of Florence) was at the time a bit of a white fly. Only a few restaurants had it on their menu and even if you ordered it would often fall short of expectations leaving you wishing you were in Rome where the dish was actually invented, to enjoy the real deal.
At this point in my life this recipe has become the equivalent of Mac and Cheese; my kids enjoy it the same way if not more, and I am happy that I can in fact serve a real traditional and authentic recipe at the dinner table.